RBIFF - Jonathan's Return

Jonathan sits outside his Israeli hospital
and remembers his terrifying time there
in a scene from "Jonathan's Return"
The 15th Rehoboth Beach Independent Film Festival or RBIFF has a Regional Showcase that features 10 movies made by Delmarva filmmakers. The majority of which are documentaries. Most are about a hour or less in length. Three are feature length. The first of which is Jonathan's Return, directed by Professor Eran Preis of Temple University in Philadelphia. No, the City of Brotherly Love isn't on Delmarva, but, aside from Baltimore to the west and Virginia Beach to the south, it's the city of most interest to many Delmarva residents. For many on Delmarva, it's his or her city of origin. Preis said his intention was to make a movie about mental illness. The reason was because Preis' son, Jonathan, suffers from a mental illness. Jonathan suffers from schizophrenia, and his return is to that of the hospital where his problems first started.

Preis was born in Israel. He came to the United States in 1984 with his wife to study film. His wife was from Akron, Ohio, so Preis ended up attending Ohio University. He came to Philadelphia in 1993 after getting a teaching job at Temple. He teaches writing, production and international cinema. He was a playwright in Israel, but has since made five documentaries. Jonathan's Return is his sixth. Preis has been nominated and has won numerous awards. His most acclaim came from co-writing the 1984 Israeli film Behind the Walls, which was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film.

Unbeknownst to Preis, his son had also developed an interest in cinema. At age 12, Jonathan, along with friends, began making home movies. Ten years later, at age 22, in 2002, Jonathan got sick while serving in Israel as part of the Israeli Army. Preis had to go and get his son and ultimately bring him back home. It was fortuitous that Preis found Jonathan's home movies, as they became perfect additions to this documentary. So, in a sense, this documentary has been in the making for twenty years. It wasn't until Jonathan's breakdown that Preis become focused on it.

Normally, Preis would have had his graduate students at Temple assist in the production, which some did, but, because this story involved his son and involved his family, a lot of this movie was done by Preis acting alone. He did hire a cinematographer to follow Jonathan who is now 32 years of age, but, for many occasions, Preis filmed things by himself. Given the situation, he wanted to handle it a bit more delicately and a bit more intimately than he had anything before.

As a result, Preis said this is his most personal documentary to date. The movie isn't simply about mental illness. Preis said it's also about coping with that mental illness, not simply on Jonathan's part but also on the part of the loving people around him. Preis interviewed his family about staying together through this because Jonathan is still very much struggling with his schizophrenia, and seeing how his family does it could potentially be therapeutic to others.

Jonathan's Return Trailer

Jonathan's Return
November 9, 2012 at 10AM.
Rehoboth Beach Independent Film Festival.


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